In the afterglow of Sunday's 31-26 win at San Diego, it's still difficult to label the Ravens.
Is the once-feared defense showing some cracks after allowing so many big plays? Who should be the lead running back, Ray Rice or Willis McGahee? Has the Ravens' offense taken over the personality of this team?
As the Ravens (2-0) sit atop the AFC North, there's only one identity that can't be disputed: They're establishing themselves as one of the best road teams in the NFL.
Since Week 7 of last season, the Ravens have won eight of 10 games on the road (including playoffs). No team has won more road games since Oct. 19, 2008, and only the Miami Dolphins (5-1) have a better road winning percentage.
"It's an interesting phenomenon when a team has a certain maturity level and a confidence in one another," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We're not going to let each other down. You find a way to win. How do you put a finger on it? I don't know. You just know when you see it."
That look had not been evident in many of the seasons before Harbaugh's arrival. From 2004 to 2005, the Ravens lost 11 straight games on the road. In 2007, they were 1-7 away from home.
In Harbaugh's first season, the Ravens not only won away from home, but they also overcame some pressure situations. They ruined the last game at Texas Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. They won two road games during the playoffs, celebrating at Miami and at Tennessee.
Then, on Sunday, the Ravens beat the odds again in winning at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, where Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had been 22-5 (.814).
"We've got a bunch of guys that know what it takes and play together as a team and don't let little things get them out of focus," tight end Todd Heap said. "It's just a sign of a good team and one that is getting better."
Here are three reasons the Ravens are among the best road warriors in the NFL:
Joe Flacco's poise
The ultimate test of a quarterback's composure is playing on the road. Flacco makes it look as if he is playing in his backyard instead of before 70,000 hostile fans. That's why he became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win two road playoff games.
Flacco's predecessor, Kyle Boller, never enjoyed the same success on the road because he had a more frenetic style. He finished his Ravens career by losing his last 10 starts away from home. During that road skid, Boller threw eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
In fact, Flacco has put up better statistics on the road than at M&T Bank Stadium. His 91.7 quarterback rating away from home last season ranked third in the NFL. He came through once again in this season's road opener, throwing for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ravens' offense has generated excitement this season, but the defense has long been the pulse of this team. In seven road wins last season, the defense returned four interceptions for touchdowns.
Linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs ran back two interceptions for scores at Miami and at Cleveland. Safety Jim Leonhard brought back a pick 35 yards for a touchdown at Cincinnati. And, in the playoff game at Miami, safety Ed Reed returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
Even though the defense gave up too many big plays, it dug in when it had to at San Diego. Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes and safety Dawan Landry both intercepted passes in the second half, and linebacker Ray Lewis stuffed Darren Sproles on the Chargers' final play of the game.
Jump out to an early lead
This is probably the most obvious key to road success. But it might be the most important, too. Gaining and maintaining an advantage in the first half can turn a hostile, sellout crowd into a library.
In the Ravens' past eight road wins, they have outscored opponents 105-60 in the first half. In their past two losses, they trailed at halftime.
The Ravens' upcoming road challenges might rank as the toughest in the NFL, from New England's Gillette Stadium to Minnesota's Metrodome to Green Bay's Lambeau Field to Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
"When you're a player in the National Football League, you live for that stuff," Flacco said. "Your job is to put points on the board and quiet them down."
Traveling in style
Since Oct. 19, 2008, the Ravens are 8-2 on the road (including the playoffs), the second-best record in the NFL during that stretch. A look at the top five road teams since Week 7 of last season:
Team Road rec. Pct.
Miami 5-1 .833
Ravens 8-2 .800
Minn. 5-2 .714
Giants 5-2 .714
Indy 5-2 .714
Phila. 5-2-1 .687
A turn in the road
After losing their last five road games of the 2007 season and first two of 2008, the Ravens are 8-2 away from M&T Bank Stadium. Here's how they've done in enemy territory during that stretch:
Date Site Result Skinny
10/19/08 @Dolphins W, 27-13 Rookie Joe Flacco posts a 120 quarterback rating
11/2/08 @Browns W, 37-27 Trailing by 14 in the third quarter, the Ravens score 24 unanswered points
11/9/08 @Texans W, 41-13 The Ravens intercept four passes and score 22 fourth-quarter points
11/16/08 @Giants L, 30-10 New York takes a 20-0 lead in the second quarter and rushes for 207 yards
11/30/08 @Bengals W, 34-3 The Ravens gain 451 yards; Mark Clayton catches five passes for 164 yards
12/20/08 @Cowboys W, 33-24 Late touchdown runs of 77 and 82 yards shut down Texas Stadium
1/4/09 @Dolphins-x W, 27-9 Miami turns the ball over five times after giving it up 13 times in the regular season
1/10/09 @Titans-y W, 13-10 Matt Stover wins it with a 43-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining
1/18/09 @Steelers-z L, 23-14 In a brutally physical game, Flacco is intercepted three times and loses a fumble
9/20/09 @Chargers W, 31-26 Ray Lewis stuffs Darren Sproles late on fourth-and-2 from the Ravens' 15
x-AFC wild card; y-AFC divisional playoff; z-AFC championship
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 13
Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 13